Surface dating by luminescence: An overview

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Daylight radiation resets luminescence ‘clock’ to zero on rock surfaces, but transmission depends on the transparency of the rock. On burial, surfaces are no longer exposed to daylight and accumulation of trapped electrons takes place till the excavation. This reduction of luminescence as a function of depth fulfils the prerequisite criterion of daylight bleaching. Thus rock artefacts and monuments follow similar bleaching rationale as those for sediments. In limestone and marble, daylight can reach depths of 0.5–1 mm and up to 16 mm respectively, while for other igneous rocks e.g. quartz in granites, partial bleaching occurs up to 5mm depth under several hours of daylight exposures and almost complete beaching is achieved in the first 1 mm within about 1 min daylight exposure. The ‘quartz technique’ for limestone monuments containing traces of quartz enables their dating with Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) techniques. The surface luminescence (thermoluminescence, TL or OSL) dating has been developed and further refined on various aspects of equivalent dose determination, complex radiation geometry, incomplete bleaching etc. A historical review of the development including important applications, along with some methodological aspects are discussed.

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